Adult Bible Fellowship
The primary intention of Adult Bible Fellowship is to help adults CONNECT to one another and GROW in Christ. Our Adult Bible Fellowship group offers organized fellowship, care, and outreach.
Join us Sundays at 8:45AM in the T&T Room on the lower level
Leader: Tim Ferguson
Email Tim at [email protected] for more information
The Study of Daniel
The book of Daniel opens up with a depressing scene. It's around 605 BC, and we are witnessing Nebuchadnezzar's first of three attacks against Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar is the ruler of the vast, pagan empire of the Babylonians. He doesn't completely destroy Jerusalem (that happens a couple of decades later in 586 BC), but he rounds up the best and brightest young men from the noble families and deports them to Babylon. They will be trained for three years and then serve in the king's administration.
Let's put ourselves in the shoes of Daniel and his three young friends- Mishael, Azariah, and Hananiah. It's possible they were only teenagers at this time. We will learn they have a strong faith in the LORD, the God of Israel. But consider for a moment the terrible times they lived in and how easy it would be for them to despair:
• Israel, the people of the TRUE God, had become an embarrassment: Their government leaders were deeply corrupt, their religious leaders were leading people astray, the culture was in moral decline, and the latest polls showed most Israelites believed that worshiping the LORD God was an outdated tradition.
• Militarily, the armies of a PAGAN nation were stampeding over the armies of Israel.
• Nebuchadnezzar plundered God's holy temple and placed its precious artifacts in the temple of his pagan God. The message was clear. The gods of Babylon have defeated the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar was dancing in the endzone.
• God had lost the culture war. To speak up for God in those days was dangerous. You'd be canceled, accused of being unpatriotic.
• Daniel and his friends faced three years being immersed in Babylonian literature and tradition, having to read and digest all those pagan myths. There was no freedom of thought at the University of Babylon.
• These four young men had to endure the indignity of being given new names. The meaning of their original names honored God. Their new names honored pagan gods. Every time someone called Daniel by his new name (Belteshazzar), it was like rubbing salt in his wounds.
The headlines were depressing. Disaster was everywhere. There was no hope on the horizon. Times were bad. I wonder, were Daniel and his friends tempted to cry out, "God, why is this happening?" "God, where are you in all of this?" "God, have you lost control?"
This, I believe, is where we can relate to Daniel and his friends. As followers of God, it's easy to feel like we are on the losing side. Our nation has been blessed by the influence of many godly men and women throughout its history, but that foundation is eroding away at an alarming pace. We are losing the culture war. Voices for righteousness get canceled in the public square. We hear of atheism and immorality being promoted in public schools. We see an ugly spirit of tyranny trying to rear its ugly head in government. "Our Father who art in heaven" has been replaced by "Our Father who art in Washington."
Welcome to Babylon where the spirit of paganism is winning...or is it?
Did you notice the subtle but all-important insight in v.2 of today's passage? "And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadezzar's] hand]..." Yes, it was the Lord who led Nebuchadnezzar to invade and humiliate Jerusalem. God had not lost control after all. He was in complete control (which, by the way, is an over-arching theme in Daniel).
Here's what we must understand. For generations, God had been warning the Israelites to turn away from their flagrant idolatry and disobedience. And he warned judgment was coming if they persisted. And God was very specific about the judgment: A pagan army would invade and deport them:
“The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young...And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known." [Deuteronomy 28:49-50, 64]
We find this sad commentary in 2 Chronicles 36:15-16:
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent [prophetic warnings] persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.
So what Daniel was witnessing in his generation was God's active hand bringing judgment upon his beloved countrymen. It was the fulfillment of centuries of prophetic warnings. God had not lost control after all. He sat securely on his throne as the sovereign over history.
In a similar way, what we are witnessing in our nation today is the tragic fulfillment of God's warnings to us. Romans chapter one explains it this way:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie... [Romans 1:21-24]
The passage goes on to describe the ugly consequences God inflicts on a society that has turned its back on him. (Read Romans 1:26-32. It's an alarming description of today's moral climate.) Again, similar to Daniel's experience, the rising tide of troubles our nation is experiencing is a sign to us who believe that God keeps his promises. He has promised that persistent disobedience to clear truth leads to judgment. And today's headlines testify to that fact.
This may seem like cold comfort, but Daniel's experience reminds us of important truths we will need in the days ahead if we long to remain faithful to the Lord:
• God is still in control and in charge. He's not losing. And we, his people, are not on the losing side. We are on the winning side. So let's remain strong and bold.
• Despite the trouble we see all around us, God's eye is on his people. The book of Daniel testifies to that fact. And God's eye is on you too, to care for you and lead you through the days ahead.
• Hard times should not cause us to despair. As I look at Scripture, it seems to me most times for God's people were hard times. And God does his best work when times are hard. We serve a Father-King who promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Join Us On Sunday!
2510 Old Washington Road
8:45AM - 9:45AM Youth Room (lower level)